Late, One Night

106



The strange dream had snapped my sleep in the dead of night. I woke up with a jolt wiping the few beads of perspiration from my forehead. Looking around, I found the still darkness staring at me. Beside me, my husband and my little daughter lay fast asleep etched with a small smile on their lips. Perhaps nice dreams, I thought. How lucky they were!

I got down from the cot silently and moved towards the small round corner table. Feeling thirsty, I gulped some water down my throat and moved to the large window opposite to the cot. A gust of cool breeze blew in as I drew the curtains a little and the starry sky seemed inviting. Had I ever seen such a beautiful night before? I wondered. Perhaps not. As I gazed into the vast expanse of the lush green field dotted with coconut and palm trees, swaying gleefully with the breeze, I heard something strange. A cry or a whisper, I couldn’t distinguish. Then, I heard it again. Yes, a cry with sobs in between. Who could it be? I thought. Perhaps the cat or the dogs in the bushes around. When I heard it again and tried to listen attentively, I realised it wasn’t either of that. But a woman’s cry instead. Who was crying at that hour? The maid? I thought. Perhaps her husband had beaten her again for raising her voice against his consummation of liquor. I tried to concentrate as if pinning my ears and mind at their door. But, there was perfect silence.




The cry lingered. And now I could hear it more distinctly. Definitely my neighbour then, I presumed. Quickly I walked to the other room just adjacent to hers and flicked the window wide open. Another gust of wind blew in. A mother cat below the window sill was scratching her paws on the soft, wet ground and the litter around her were whimpering. May be for milk, I thought. The cat growled and the kittens scrambled away in fright.

The cry persisted. But it wasn’t coming from my neighbour’s house either. Who was it then? From where was it coming? I stood still trying to concentrate deeper. At first I thought it came from somewhere far away. But the next moment it felt closer. Somewhere from the backyard or from the lawn in the front. I moved to the large window once again and peered around outside. No it wasn’t coming from that end. Quickly, I rushed to the hall and flicked open the window overlooking the lawn and the garden outside. Soon, my eyes fell on a shadow strolling on the lawn. I rubbed my eyes to dispel the thought of my wild imagination.

But, it was still there. The sight sent shivers down my spine and I felt my whole body numb in fright. I pulled the curtains together and ran to the cot where my family lay fast asleep. I sat there for some time, drank some water and tried to wake my husband, Rajiv up. But, dropped the idea the next moment. With curiosity reigning, fear took a back seat and I crept to the window and pulled the curtain again, but this time a bit silently, not willing to snap the silence around.